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Collector Spotlight: Clark Risley


Clark Risley has amassed an impressive collection of Mr. Potato Head objects since he began collecting twelve years ago. Here, he explains how he got his start with the toy spud and shares a resource that no one else has mentioned in all our years of talking with collectors.

How do you describe your collection?

I have about 1238 Mr. Potato Head objects. About 679 are actual Mr. Potato Head toys and the other 559 are things like restaurant tray liners, kites, a HoMedics massager, stickers, books, and watches, including about 12 limited-edition Fossil watches that were released in conjunction with the original Toy Story movies. I started getting some of the items autographed a couple of years ago. I have 44 items that have been signed by people such as Herschel Walker, Morena Baccarin, and Brianna Hildebrand.

The oldest item in my collection is from the 1950s. It’s a kit that came with the parts that could be pushed into any vegetable. My aunt actually received it through the mail by sending in a little coupon with a quarter. That was back when the manufacturer was known as Hassenfeld Brothers, before the name changed to Hasbro.

When and why did you start collecting Mr. Potato Head objects?

I got started around 2008. A lady from work gave me a Mr. Potato Head for my office. Then my wife and kids gave me a Darth Tater and later a Spider Spud from Spiderman 2. I’ve always collected something, but what captured my attention about Mr. Potato Head is that there are so many different ones to collect — everything from Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Star Wars, and The Avengers. It’s cute to see him done up as characters from all these films. I have a customized POPTATR license plate for my truck and a tattoo that says PoppaTater, both because my daughter and her friends call me that.

How do you display and store your collection?

I have things around the house and at work. My boxed Mr. Potato Heads, autographed items, keychains, and Christmas ornaments are at home. There are also items in tote bins in my garage that hold Taters still in their packaging along with odds and ends. My wife’s family owns a lighting company; I am able to keep the open Taters at the warehouse. I keep track of my collection with a Google spreadsheet; there’s a tab for Mr. Potato Heads and one for the odds and ends. I try not to buy too many duplicate items.

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of Mr. Potato Head collectibles?

Of the ones that I have, it would be the boxset of the band Kiss as Mr. Potato Heads. All four members of the 2017 line-up are included and I have all four of their autographs on the box. A colleague paid for a meet-and-greet experience before one of their concerts. She brought the boxset to the show for the band to sign.

The items I would love to have in my collection would be the Thor Mr. Potato Head signed by actor Eric Allan Kramer. He played Thor in a couple episodes of The Incredible Hulk television series from the 1970s and ’80s. To have my Thor Mr. Potato Head signed by him would go so well with the Hulk Mr. Potato Head I have signed by Lou Ferrigno. I’d also love to get Stephanie Courtney’s autograph on my Mrs. Flo-Tato Head. She is the face and voice of Flo from Progressive Insurance.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Mr. Potato Head collection?

Buy what interests you. There are no right or wrong items to have in your collection. If you see something you like, buy it! Hit flea markets, antique malls, and garage sales. eBay can be your friend or it can be horrible depending on your pocketbook. Also, there’s an online Goodwill shop. I’ve found stuff there that I never knew existed!

 

Check out the Mr. Potato Head Facebook Group for all things related to the iconic toy.

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